President Biden’s $350 billion annual domestic spending plan is popular. In South Texas, it’s more popular than Henry Cuellar, one of nine conservative Democrats who have threatened to torpedo the legislation in the House.
That’s according to a recent survey of 500 likely voters in Texas’ 28th congressional district by The Green New Deal Network, a coalition of progressive groups that includes Move On, The Center for Popular Democracy, Sierra Club, Green Peace, and Working Families Party.
The poll shows that voters in the district support key components of Biden’s 10-year $3.5 trillion spending plan; 78% support reducing prescription drug costs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate with drug corporations; 73% support reducing air and water pollution including by replacing toxic lead pipes; and 75% support investments in long-term home and community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities.
Perhaps the most notable figure from the poll: 63% support taxing the wealthy and large corporations and closing tax loopholes.
In August, Cuellar was one of nine conservative and moderate Democrats including Filemon Vela (TX-34) who threatened to upend the spending bill unless a major Senate-passed infrastructure bill also passes the House and is written into law. Fearing moderate Democrats may ultimately abandon many of those spending and tax law priorities, congressional progressives have been opposed to decoupling both the spending bill and the infrastructure bill and are working to pass them together.
“Often we hear from corporate Democrats that they’re trying to be somewhere in this undefinable middle,” said Lindsay Farrell, a campaign strategist with the Working Families Party who helped compose the poll questions. “That’s inconsistent with the experience that we have doing a substantial amount of voter contact in elections all over the country.”
Farrell said the coalition set out to test whether moderate and conservative Democrats were really telling the truth about how their voters felt about Biden’s spending plan and whether its key compliments were popular.
“It turns out they really are,” Farrell said. “And it also turns out that the incumbent Democrat is in trouble politically.”
The same poll found support for Cuellar’s reelection is 27% among general election voters and at 37% among Democratic primary voters.
“He’s definitely in a precarious position in both the primary and general election,” Farrell said. “At the same time, the ideas that are in the Build Back Better proposal are very, very popular.”
“At the very least, we know that incumbents are missing an opportunity in these swing districts to pass popular things that they can campaign on and show voters that they can make government work for people,” Farrell said.
The survey comes the same week as a new report by the nonpartisan government corruption watchdog Accountable.US that also relates to Biden’s Build Back Better plan and Cuellar and Vela’s districts.
One key provision of the spending plan is extending the Child Tax Credit, or monthly payments of up to $300 per child for families that qualify. To pay for the extension of that policy through 2025, Biden’s plan would call for a tax increase on America’s wealthiest, specifically those earning $400,000 or more in income.
Conversely, the tax increase on the wealthy would only impact at most 3.8% of households in Cuellar’s district and 2.6% of households in Vela’s district, the report finds.
“With so many families struggling to get back on their feet and get ahead in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, it’s critical that lawmakers like Henry Cuellar not lose perspective on who really needs help,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US in a prepared statement. “Rep. Cuellar has an opportunity to deliver tax relief to virtually every family in Texas with the stronger child tax credit. It makes no sense economically to hold hostage real help for families just to protect tax breaks for a tiny, wealthy minority — and the public strongly agrees. The rich can afford to pay a fairer share in taxes, but many families in Texas can’t afford to lose out on this commonsense tax relief.”